Yards provide endless projects and there’s always room for improvement. Upkeep and addressing curb appeal is sort of like… picking a hairstyle! You have to think about your face shape, what’s on trend, your personal style, texture, and what kind of maintenance you are up for… Selecting plants for your foundation is subject to the same level of decision making. If you live in a shingle style house on Cape Cod a row of blue hydrangea might be all you need, while your Georgian colonial in Michigan would look totally bare half the year with only hydrangea.  

Photo Robert Foley

We asked our Tilly design team what to consider when updating or adding curb appeal and have broken it down into four simple items to consider: 

  1. Layering: Think about layering when placing plants. Tall in the back, then mid height, and short in the front. It may seem obvious, but we find many people only do two of the three, leaving an empty space.  A tall evergreen with a little perennial in front might look out of scale while a tall shrub with a medium one in front would look so much more finished with a little splash of ground cover below.
  1. Simplicity: It’s always safest to start simple for a front foundation planting. Use evergreen shrubs to build the framework and fill in with flowers or textures. Don’t go too crazy with a large selection of plants, which brings us to our next point: repetition. 
  1. Repetition: Don’t feel like you need to plant every cool plant from the nursery in front of your house. Choose a few varieties and use them in blocks or rhythms. This appears clean to the eye and has a sense of purpose. 
  1. Trees: Don’t forget the trees!  It’s not just about shrubs, a few well placed shade trees will lend significance and grandeur to your property for years to come. 

Photo: Monrovia

Here are some things to consider when selecting your plants:

  • Are they evergreen or deciduous (seasonal)? Most successful foundation plantings have a blend of both. 
  • How quickly do they grow? There has been a lot of work done in the nursery industry to develop smaller, more compact versions of many shrubs. By selecting slower growing plants you will likely be limiting your maintenance work.
  • When do you want your curb appeal to be at it’s best?  There is a certain ebb and flow to all plants with winter being the slowest season and spring having the most color.  If season long color is a goal for you try to select plants with different bloom times.  If you really love lilacs, then build out the beds to show these off and then have simple structure during the rest of the season. 
  • How much time/money do you want to spend every year on annuals?  Annual flowers and bulbs are a great way to add punch and color to your curb appeal, but they do require refreshing every year… or even several times a season.  If you plan your yard around annuals just be sure you’re up to the yearly task!

While these are some of our favorite points to share, here are a few others if you’re up for the challenge! Feel free to comment with any questions!

Photo: Tilly

We have found the Tilly process to be most successful on properties less than an acre.

A major part of remote design is understanding a property’s existing conditions and limitations. To do this we generally use the primary structure (usually the house) as the main point of reference. The greater distances are from from the house the less successful we are at understanding your property. No matter what the size of your property, the more information you can provide us, the better. Don’t be shy with the pictures! And please send along any and all architectural or property plan documents you can.

Still have questions? Contact us!